This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Warning: Skirt Egypt

"The wounded and dying never stopped coming. Between us, we saw over 50 Egyptians die; students, workers, professionals, professors, all shapes, all ages, unarmed."
[Stopped at a police checkpoint] "arrested searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a 'Syrian terrorist', slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries ... They screamed 'Canadian' as they kicked and hit us."
Statement: John Greyson, Tarek Loubani
They travelled to Egypt, two Canadians who meant to embark on a humanitarian mission. As it turned out they did just that, only it wasn't the mission they had envisioned that they would be involved with. They had meant -- an emergency-room physician of Palestinian birth, now a Canadian, and a gay film producer -- to re-visit Gaza, and there Dr. Loubani meant to do some teaching at the hospital he had previously visited.

And his friend, John Greyson, would film Dr. Loubani in action. The emphasis to be on the isolation of Gaza's Palestinian population. Hamas, the ruling Islamists whose charter expressed the intention of destroying the State of Israel to restore the territory to the Palestinians not presenting a problem to them. The problem lay with the 'occupiers', the Israeli Defence Forces whose occupation status resulted from that very declaration of annihilation accompanied by Hamas terror attacks on Israel.

Their plans went awry when they discovered that resulting from the unrest in Egypt where the military had deposed the elected Muslim Brotherhood majority from power along with President Mohammad Morsi, an outbreak of violence had erupted in the Sinai, necessitating closure of passage into Gaza. Alternatively, the two visitors to Egypt thought it might be instructive to view the protests in downtown Cairo. Mr. Greyson took his camera and Dr. Loubani his professional experience.

In the melee of violence that they witnessed, Dr. Loubani responded to his professional code and gave assistance to the wounded, while Mr. Greyson videoed the violence that took possession of the area. "This footage shows the Egyptians in a negative light. That's why they are holding John and Tarek", remarked Mr. Greyson's sister in Halifax. "We assume that this evidence is unflattering to the Egyptian government, to put it mildly."

The two were arrested, though not yet charged with a crime. Hundreds were arrested that day of August 16, when a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protests against the military brought the authority of the military down on them. Potential charges that may be lodged against them are listed as arson, conspiracy, terrorism, and attacking a police station. If charges are laid they can expect two years in prison before a trial. Without charges the two Canadians are still looking at six months of detention on a felony under Egyptian law.

Dr. Loubani will not be visiting the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza to continue his work on cardiac life support services, after all. Mr. Greyson's film equipment has been seized with its damning footage of the very events leading to their arrest; he may or may not recover his belongings when and if they are eventually released. But it seems unlikely, given the content.

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs met with his Egyptian counterpart in an effort to plead for their safe passage back to Canada on release from the Egyptian jail where they remain incarcerated. Mr. Baird felt he had a sympathetic hearing on behalf of the two, as a result of his "high-level engagement". Within hours of that meeting news arrived that the detention was to be extended into November.

Leaving the two unfortunates in a notorious prison facility in south Cairo called the Tora, criticized  by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, citing its lack of sunlight and poor ventilation. The high security section of the prison is suspected of holding torture chambers. But this is a critical time in Egypt, when the majority of the population believes it has rightfully authorized its military to fight the threat of internal political Islamism.

"This is the way coups operate. A coup always ends like this. The net grows wider, and the description of the enemies gets broader because militaries see enemies. As long as Canadians are being held without trial, there needs to be a strong warning to Canadians not to go to Egypt because it's not safe", cautioned Professor Bessma Momani, expert on Egyptian politics at the University of Waterloo.


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"Nobody Is Left In The School Now"

"Although there is (an) increase in troop movement and military hardware deployment in the northeast, people are yet to see the kind of action on the ground that effectively nips criminal and terrorist activities in the bud."
Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, Yobe State, Nigeria
"Sometimes you need courage" in the face of such challenges as the slaughter of thousands of innocents, cautioned Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan who condemned a deadly attack that took place on Sunday night on an agricultural college, killing 50 students as they slept, in the belief that their nation's military was protecting them from any such deadly onslaughts.

Courage, then, trumps the actual presence of protection. Courage to face the reality of impending threats to life and limb. From a terrorist group which takes its name from what is forbidden: Western knowledge and education. Forbidden, that is, by their standards. Holding that what is pure must now be defiled; Islamic teaching is not to be corrupted by exposure to Western ideas.

A screengrab taken on Sept 25, 2013 from a video distributed through an intermediary to local reporters and seen by AFP, shows a man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau. A man claiming to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram appeared in a video Wednesday taunting world leaders after the military said he may have been killed. -- PHOTO: AFP 

Because of previous such atrocities when Boko Haram, the country's look-alike Islamist militia to Somalia's al-Shabab, attacked another such college on an earlier occasion, those agricultural schools based on Western models of farming techniques vital to the country's economy and future, shut their doors.

Provost Molima Idi Mato of Yobe State College of Agriculture bemoaned that no security forces were present to protect the college.

When only several weeks earlier the state commissioner for education had beseeched schools and colleges to re-open in reflection of their duty to educate and prepare for the future. And promised that all such schools and colleges would be guarded by soldiers and police, against the possibility of any such further attacks.

Boko Haram has stated its pride in having been responsible for the killing of 50 young people, after having attacked and killed 29 pupils and a teacher, burning some of them alive in their hostels at Mamudo outside Damaturu on July 6. This new attack will be adjudged by Boko Haram as being more successful than the last, encouraging them to continue their successful trajectory.

"They attacked our students while they were sleeping in their hostels. They opened fire at them", said Yobe State College of Agriculture Provost Idi Mato. Most of the victims were between the ages of 18 and 22. Forty-two bodies were recovered, along with 18 wounded students, taken to Damaturu Specialist Hospital. Where two of the wounded died later. Almost all killed were Muslims, reflecting the majority make-up of the college's student body.

The attackers came in all-terrain vehicles and on motorcycles, some of them in Nigerian military uniforms, according to a surviving student. The terrorists seemed to be knowledgeable of the college layout, choosing to attack the four male hostels, bypassing the one hostel that was reserved for women. "We ran into the bush, nobody is left in the school now", said Ibrahim Mohammed.

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Preserving the Faithful

"The Mujahideen carried out a meticulous vetting process at the mall and have taken every possible precaution to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar before carrying out their attack."
Now affiliated with al-Qaeda which has certain scruples that it insists affiliates respect, al-Shabab has done its superficial recognizance in fulfilment of the articles of faith that reflect Islamic heritage. Muslims do indeed kill, slaughter, maim, assassinate, attack and murder other Muslims, but this is not a truth that the faithful wish to accept. During the U.S.-NATO invasion of Iraq, al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq earned the repudiation of its al-Qaeda parent by the depths of its vicious depravity.

During that period, the Iraqi al-Qaeda militias were so brutally engaged they slaughtered Iraqi Sunnis along with the Shiite Iraqis, earning the outrage of the Iraqi Sunni community. As a result Iraq's Sunnis agreed to fight alongside American troops with their own brigades, to counter the presence of the infiltrating Sunni Islamists in Anbar Province, with their Awakening brigade.
"The French and the English are to be treated equally: Their blood and their money are halal wherever they may be. No Muslim in any part of the world may co-operate with them in any way... It leads to apostasy and expulsion from Islam. Accordingly, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Ugandans and Burindians are just like the English and the French because they have invaded the Islamic country of Somalia."
"And so all Muslims must stay far away from the enemy and their installations so as not to become human shields for them, and so as not to be hurt by the blows of the mujahedeen directed at the Crusader enemies. There is no excuse for those who live or mingle with the enemies in their locations."
"The mujahedeen are sincere in wanting to spare the blood of their brother Muslims, and they don't want a Muslim to die from the bullets directed at the enemies of God."
Conference of Islamic scholars, Baidoa fatwas
And so, an element of due diligence undertaken when the 14 or so al-Shabab attackers of the Westgate mall in Nairobi questioned the frantically fearful mall shoppers whether they were Muslim, to spare them from the slaughter. A simple acquiescence was insufficient; one had to be able to recite a Quranic scripture, and to recall the name of the Prophet Mohammad's mother. Upon which proof a Muslim was free to leave the slaughterhouse.

This is new for al-Shabab. Their more typical free-wheeling slaughter made no such enquiries. They were accustomed to attacking restaurants packed with diners, crowded bus stations, busy government buildings, all absent the knowledge of whether or not Muslims were present, because, quite simply, it didn't matter. If Muslims were mingling with the kuffar why then, they deserved to suffer the same fate as the Infidel.

And then came the differentiating qualifications when a conference of Islamic scholars met in the Somali town of Baidoa under al-Shabab control in 2011. They set about to define who was a Muslim and what represented an apostate. It is halal -- lawful, to kill and rob those who 'commit crimes' against Islam. Another document warns Muslims to remain separate from non-believers, not even to enter buildings occupied by non-Muslims.

In a spirit of generosity the al-Shabab attackers of the Westgate mall made an attempt to identify Muslims from non-Muslims. In the process killing 67 people, although the Red Cross claims that 59 people are still missing, and it is possible that the morgue which has just emptied itself of bodies claimed by grieving families will once again become full of the unaccounted-for, yet-to-be-discovered dead.

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Regrets, There Are Some....

"It came as a thunderclap, especially to me. Although I was the party's deputy leader, I had been excluded from the secret negotiations with the other parties. What I saw was a desperate leader clinging to power by any means, resorting to a coup de theatre to survive.
"The problem was not a coalition itself. You can make coalitions among winners.
"In our case, it was a coalition of losers. The government had just increased its seats in the House of Commons, while we had lost seats. How were we to explain to the people that we were throwing out a government duly elected two months before?"
"There were times when I felt I was shaping and moulding events, other times when I watched helplessly as events slipped out of my control.
"I knew moments of exaltation when I thought I might be able to do great things for the people, and now I live with the regret that I will never be able to do anything at all. In short, I lived the life. I paid for what I learned. I pursued the flame of power and saw hope dwindle to ashes."
Michael Ignatieff, Journalist, Academic, Politician, Academic
Michael Ignatieff and wife Zsuzsanna Zsohar

Exaltation? Which was it, the achievement of rank, power, character? All? Plus extreme happiness. Sounds like something beyond responding to an appeal for public service. Sounds downright and profoundly egotistic. Poetically histrionic prose. A messiah come to rescue Canadians from their forty years of drifting. Not 40 years? However long it is that Mr. Ignatieff felt that much had to be changed to alter the course of the country we call Canada -- and for him to achieve his manifest destiny.

He's written another book. Fire and Ashes, detailing his five years in purgatory imposed upon his innocence when he felt justified in leaving Harvard believing he was headed toward heaven. His sainted father would be proud. Looking back, he deplored the opportunistic fumbling of the Liberal Party's then-leader, Stephane Dion, when the party foolishly chose him instead of Mr. Ignatieff. The desperation to remove the just-elected Conservatives back to another minority government.

And to do it with the combined strength of the opposition; Liberals, NDP ... and er, the separatist Quebec-centric Bloc Quebecois. Bad enough Canadian taxpayers were paying the salaries of sovereigntist MPs agitating for the sundering of the country as it was; hinge the removal of a democratically elected government on their wild disaffection for Canada? The former Harvard professor may not have been political material, but he did have a profound sense of democracy.

Coming head to head with Prime Minister Stephen Harper who he belatedly saw as a disciplined and ruthless politician harbouring "no fixed compass other than the pursuit of power", he guilelessly describes the prime minister as such, apparently not recognizing himself in the description. As for Bob Rae, old university chum and long-time stalwart, that relationship "exploded" into nothingness on the revelation that Ignatieff now hungered for the same position Rae felt entitled to, himself.

"He was an able politician, a lifer longing for redemption. As far as he was concerned, he had earned his chance and I hadn't earned mine. Seen from his point of view, he'd been the premier of a province. He'd been in federal politics for years. He'd been in politics for years and he thought, 'Who the hell is this guy? Who does he think he is?' I understand that humanly. But in an honest account of what politics is like, you have to tell stories like that because you want to tell it like it was."

Much appreciated, and thank you. Whose tone is the petulant one here? And, by and large, who was correct in his assumption and who was not? Perspective aids perception. As for the Conservative attack ads portraying Mr. Ignatieff as a privileged intellectual prevailed upon to "visit" Canada to try his hand at governance, that portrayal initiative was apt enough.

Another contender who weighed in was also found wanting. Stephane Dion who had "burst" the coalition plan to the Liberal caucus, failing to impress Canadians sufficiently to award the medal of survivor to Mr. Dion. "Here was a principled political leader with a fine reputation for standing up to separatist rhetoric in Quebec, now making a secret deal with the leader of a separatist party", wrote Mr. Ignatieff. One can only disparage in despair.

Yes, yes, yes most certainly; quite disgraceful. But who co-signed that document in support of the proposed coalition? Yes, most certainly; Mr. Ignatieff. With caveats, yes, we know; you were honourable, they were somewhat lacking, alas. Michael Ignatieff, the great scholar who might have done so much for the country, foiled by mean spirits, ranging from those in the Liberal party who failed to elevate him until others had failed, to the Prime Minister who "...attacked my right to say anything at all...".

Life, sigh, is just so unfair. Especially when the candidate went to such lengths to prepare himself, to shed himself of unacceptable baggage; becoming humble and common, to suit the electorate as one of them. "I had to unlearn being clever, being rhetorical, being fluent, and start appreciating how much depends on making a connection, any connection, with the people listening to you."

Not his fault; they just weren't listening closely enough.

Yes. St. Viateur's bagels ARE that good. Peter McCabe/Postmedia News     Yes. St. Viateur's bagels ARE that good

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Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria, is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed. Jihad will spread outwards to the region, then threaten global security -- possibly with biological and chemical weapons.
Al Qaeda is quickly constructing its main regional Middle East base in Syria, from where it plans to export terrorism and Islamic radicalism to neighboring states, then to the West, a new report released by an Israeli security research institute warned.

The jihadis later aspire, according to the report, to turn "Greater Syria" -- an old geographic term encompassing Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories -- into an Islamic caliphate.
The exhaustive study took a year to compile, according to researchers at the Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which released it.

The Center itself is a part of the Israeli Intelligence and Heritage Commemoration Center, founded in the 1980s by leading members of the Israeli intelligence community.

The report identified the Al Nusra Front as Al Qaeda's official arm in Syria; they added that the organization is quickly entrenching itself in the north and east of Syria, where the Assad regime's rule has collapsed.

Fighters from Al Nusra Front pose for a photograph.

According to Dr. Reuven Erlich, the head of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the Al Nusra Front is entrenching itself in Syria at a rate several times faster than the time it took Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to become a serious international terrorist presence.

Erlich, who served in several posts in IDF Military Intelligence, also cautioned that Syria's location in the heart of the Middle East, its proximity to Europe, and its border with Israel mean that geopolitically, the jihadi threat from Syria is more central than the one from Afghanistan or Pakistan.

He compared Al Nusra's activities in Syria today to the incubation period of a virus, before it begins spreading and infecting other hosts. Later, Erlich warned, the plague of jihad will spread outwards from Syria to the region, then go on to threaten global security.

The researchers who composed the report assessed the chances of Al Nusra realizing its goal of building a caliphate as low, due to Syria's diverse sectarian, ethnic, and religious population, and strong tradition of secular Arab nationalism.

Nevertheless, they said, the group is on course to become one of the most prominent rebel entities, and will play a key role in shaping a post-Assad Syria, while using its growing presence as a springboard to launch international terrorist attacks.

At the moment, Al Nusra's most urgent goal is toppling President Assad; its members are therefore not yet focusing on enforcing Shari'a law in Syria. They show a pragmatic willingness to work with other rebel organizations, including the main Free Syrian Army. But once the Assad regime falls, a violent campaign by jihadis might begin to cement their control over any new government formed by rebels in Damascus.

A second jihadi organization operates in Syria, the researchers said, called the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, formed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, though Al Nusra is the only one to have received official recognition by Al Qaeda's central leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in June this year.

"The two branches together have an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 operatives in our assessment, and the number is growing," the report stated.

Erlich said the influence of the group is out of proportion to its numbers, due its operational capabilities and influence on the population.

The Al Nusra Front is led Abu Muhammad al-Julani, who possibly hails from the Syrian Golan, and rules over a network of fighters and local subordinates in Syria's districts.

He is a veteran of jihadist battles against US forces in Iraq, and a former follower of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who set up Al Qaeda in Iraq in the previous decade.

Rank and file members of the group are a mix of Syrians and foreign volunteers from the Arab and Muslim world, the report said, adding that foreign volunteers number in the thousands. Additionally, between 500 and 600 European Muslim volunteers are in the organization, mainly hailing from the UK and France. They are expected, after returning from the battlefields, to spread jihad in their home countries, the report said.

The Al Nusra Front's most senior body is called the Consulting Council of Jihad Fighters. Its leadership is made up of staff dealing with military operations, fundraising, weapons acquisitions and smuggling, religious affairs and public relations. Fighting units are usually called battalions or companies.

The report mapped out the Al Nusra Front's presence in Syria, noting that it was strongest in the north and east, where the Assad regime has collapsed. In these areas, called "liberated zones" by the jihadis, Al Nusra and affiliated groups provide public services, maintain health, legal, and policing systems, and distribute food, clothing and blankets.

In some places, residents have complained about a strict code of Shari'a-based conduct being enforced.

According to the report, the group is weakest on the Mediterranean coast, where the minority Alawite population -- of which the ruling Assad regime is mostly composed -- is located.

Most of Al Nusra's attacks are focused on greater Damascus and on northern and eastern Syria, in places such as Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deir al-Zor. Its actions are guerrilla-terrorist campaigns against the regime's bases, facilities and individuals.

Tactics include suicide car bombings, roadside bombs, suicide bombers on foot, and firing on bases and airfields with light arms and mortars. Security checkpoints are a frequent target.

"Suicide bombings are a signature brand" of Al Nusra and are operationally effective, but have resulted in negative public relations among other Syrian rebels, said the report.

The Al Nusra Front plans to attack Israel from the Syrian Golan, according to an assessment that appeared in the report. It "can be expected to establish an operative terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights, a continuation of military infrastructure it is currently constructing in Deraa," the southwestern city where the anti-Assad uprising began in 2011.

"In our assessment, Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist organizations may integrate themselves into terrorist attacks from the Golan Heights despite the fundamental ideological differences between them," it added.

Al Nusra can also be expected to link up with fellow jihadis who follow Al Qaeda's ideology in neighboring Lebanon, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Western Arab states are on the target list too, the report said, adding that Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, all of which support the rebels, might be targeted by Al Nusra in the form of subversive, radical Islamists entering them and setting up terrorist cells.

In northern Syria, Al Nusra and its allies have seized key national resources such as oil and gas fields, oil pipelines, dams, power plants and grain silos.

These sites are now operated by jihadis, who sometimes sell oil and gas to the Assad regime for profit, enabling the organization to pay its operatives a monthly salary, purchase more weapons, and run assistance programs in "liberated areas."

As Al Nusra fighters raid Syrian weapons depots, the fear remains, the report stated, that "in the absence of the considerations of restraint that influence other terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist organizations," they could obtain chemical and biological weapons, and use them in terrorist attacks.

Related Topics:  Syria  |  Yaakov Lappin

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Netanyahu can't hope to regain Israel’s voice in headlong US-Russian-Iranian nuclear diplomacy

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis September 30, 2013, 11:09 AM (IDT)
An earlier encounter
An earlier encounter
Although a face to face between prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama is obviously worthwhile for both countries, the prime minister need not expect to deflect the president from his pursuit of a nuclear deal with Tehran when they meet Monday, Sept. 30. At best, he will come away with soothing assurances that any new intelligence he presents will be seriously looked into. But he can’t hope for real substance for two reasons: 
1. Obama can no longer turn away from the path he has set himself, because he is driven by the ambition to prove that international problems can be solved without military force and solely by good will, negotiations and diplomacy.

2.  After convincing Russian President Vladimir Putin that he means what he says and is not planning to repeat his “mistaken” US military involvement in the 2011 Libyan civil war, Obama removed a major obstacle in the way of a US-Russian deal on Syria’s chemical weapons.

It is now the turn for Washington, Moscow and Tehran to continue the process with a parallel consensual deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

From Tehran, the US and Russia might be seen to be preparing to impose a nuclear settlement on Iran in the same way as they did for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons. However, if that is what is contemplated, Obama and Putin will soon find Tehran is not Damascus, and the ayatollah in Tehran is a completely different proposition from his Syrian ally.

The wily supreme leader Ali Khamenei in fact sees his chance of turning the situation around to the Islamic Republic’s advantage. He grasps that the American and Russian leaders are in a hurry to reap the results of the Obama administration’s decision to forswear a military option for bringing Tehran round. Their headlong quest for quick results gives Tehran the leverage for extracting previously withheld concessions on its nuclear program, such as extreme flexibility on its enriched uranium production and stocks.

Netanyahu may hear Obama promising to stand by his demand that Iran stop enriching uranium and export the bulk of its stocks, or surrender it for destruction like Syria’s chemical weapons. But he will also discover that Obama and Putin are running ahead together at breakneck speed after dropping Israel by the wayside.  And the negotiations with Iran behind the scenes - and continuing in Geneva on Oct. 15 with the five Security Council powers and Germany - are more than likely to produce a compromise unacceptable to Israel.

Iran and Russia will have to make some concessions for a deal. But so too will the United States, and the uranium enrichment issue will loom large in the way of an agreement unless Washington gives way on that point. Obama has already covered much of this ground in secret contacts with Tehran.
The tempo of the negotiations, dictated by Obama and Putin, will make it easy to blur facts and the present minor concessions as major achievements.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are already smoothing the way for the understandings to come with messages that fit neatly into world media headlines. Sunday, Kerry echoed President Rouhani’s [statement] of a nuclear accord achievable in months. At the same time, mindful of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting Monday, the US Secretary said in a TV interview, “A bad deal is worse than no deal,” while US Ambassador Dan Shapiro assured Israelis in a radio interview Monday morning “The US and Israel share the same goals – preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Meanwhile, last month’s buzz phrase for the Syrian accord, which called for “a credible military option” to underpin the understanding, has been quietly mothballed in both the Syrian and Iranian WMD context

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Baghdad hit by wave of deadly car bombs

BBC News online -- 30 September 2013
Footage shows the aftermath of the 13 rush hour blasts, as the BBC's Rafid Jaboori reports from Baghdad
A series of car bomb blasts in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has killed at least 47 people and injured many more, officials say.

The blasts targeted markets and car parks in mainly Shia Muslim districts of the city.
There has been a recent upsurge in sectarian violence, sparking fears of a return to the bloodletting of 2008.

More than 5,000 people have been killed so far this year, according to United Nations data.
Monday's blasts struck during Baghdad's morning rush hour, with reports of 13 bombs, most of them in Shia neighbourhoods.

Groups of labourers gathering ahead of the working day were among the bombers' targets.


The upsurge of violence is taking place against the backdrop of a stumbling political process.
Two weeks ago leaders of a group of main political parties signed an agreement aiming to stop the bloodshed. They dubbed it a Code of Honour. But violence continued and dozens of people have been killed since.
There have been widespread protests in Sunni areas of Iraq against the Shia-led government. Sunnis accuse the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of discriminating against them, something the government vehemently denies.
After Monday's bombings, the ministry of interior's spokesman told me that violence in Syria is spilling over to Iraq. The challenge was huge, he said, and an unstable political process in Iraq only makes it worse.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist organisation, claims responsibility for most of the attacks that target Shia areas. But no mainstream Sunni political party approves violence against Shia.
One of the deadliest attacks was reported from the eastern Sadr City district where seven people were killed and 75 injured in a crowded vegetable market.

Another six were reported killed in Shuala, a mainly Shia area of north Baghdad.

The city neighbourhoods affected also included New Baghdad, Habibiya, Sabaa al-Bour, Kazimiya, Shaab and Ur, as well as the Sunni districts of Jamiaa and Ghazaliya, the Associated Press news agency reports.

No-one has claimed responsibility for Monday's attacks, but Sunni Muslim insurgents have been blamed for much of the most recent violence.

The interior ministry accused rebels linked to al-Qaeda of exploiting political divisions and regional conflicts to sow violence.

"Our war with terrorism goes on," interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan told AP.
The recent upsurge in violence was triggered in April by an army raid on a Sunni Muslim anti-government protest camp near Hawija, north of Baghdad.

Many in the country's Sunni Muslim minority complain of being excluded from decision-making and of abuses by the security forces. Recent raids in Baghdad on suspected al-Qaeda hideouts in mainly Sunni districts are thought to have worsened grievances.

Major attacks this month

  • 30 September: At least 42 killed in car bombs in mainly Shia areas of Baghdad
  • 21 September: At least 60 killed at funeral in Sadr City, Baghdad
  • 15 September: More than 40 killed in blasts across Iraq mostly targeting Shia areas
  • 3 September: At least 60 killed in mainly Shia districts of Baghdad
One of the bloodiest attacks over the past few weeks was a double bombing in a funeral marquee in Sadr City on 21 September, which left more than 60 people dead. 

Several dozen people died in a wave of attacks on Sunday, including another explosion at a funeral.
A suicide bomber attacked a Shia Muslim mosque south of the city, causing the roof to collapse. More than 40 people are now known to have been killed in that incident.

Irbil, the normally stable capital of Iraq's autonomous province of Kurdistan, was hit by a series of bombings on the same day, killing six members of the security services. Officials said that violence could be linked to fighting between jihadists and Kurds in Syria.

Graphic showing deaths in Iraq

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Syria: Agony of victims of 'napalm-like' school bombing

"Ghostly fragments of what happened here are strewn across the playground": Ian Pannell's report contains distressing scenes
Footage of a napalm-like attack on a school in Syria filmed by a team working for Panorama shocked the world. Now the BBC has returned to find out what happened to the children who suffered horrific burns.

We had travelled to Syria to film two British doctors from the UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria providing care to parts of the country where the medical system is barely functioning.

The British medics had stopped off at a hospital in Aleppo Province. It was set up by the charity to provide general medical care, but in a climate of war it is just as likely to be casualties of the conflict who are carried through the door.

Within an hour of being there we received the first sign of what was to come.
A seven-month old baby boy arrived, his pink face was blistered and raw. His father was also burnt and sat helplessly on a stretcher clutching his son as the staff rushed to help.

The British doctors were hearing rumours that there were more cases on the way.
Soon, dozens of people, mostly teenagers, were being rushed in on stretchers with napalm-like burns. Their clothes were burnt, their bodies charred and in some cases their hair had melted.

Their faces were brutally disfigured with huge blisters forming over their bodies. Almost in slow motion they lumbered in; shocked and in pain. The smell of burnt flesh was overpowering.

Within minutes the hospital was overwhelmed. Dr Rola Hallam and Dr Saleyha Ahsam began treating the casualties.
Syria hospital overwhelmed after bomb attack The field hospital was overwhelmed by the number of casualties brought in
There were no shrapnel injuries or loss of blood typical of most aerial bombs.
We did not know for sure what the device contained but it caused appalling burns consistent with an incendiary device, containing a substance like napalm or thermite.

The pressure group Human Rights Watch has documented the use of similar bombs elsewhere in Syria.

All of this unravelled in a climate of fear. It happened just days after the chemical attack in the eastern suburbs of Damascus that killed hundreds of people and many were terrified that the same had just happened here.

Doctors ripped open packets of saline fluid and poured the liquid over the victims. The few beds in the emergency room quickly filled up and many of the teenagers were writhing in agony on the floor.
Thick white cream was applied to their bodies to treat the burns, while yet more patients were brought in.

Outside in the hospital courtyard, a water tanker sprayed the crowd so they could clean themselves - terrified that this had been a chemical attack.

Fathers and mothers desperate for news fought to be allowed into the hospital, cursing their president, Bashar al-Assad.

Eyewitnesses described the same thing - a fighter-jet circling overhead, apparently looking for targets. A large crowd had gathered at the school where the incendiary bomb was dropped.

Eighteen-year-old Siham Kanbari had terrible burns to much of her body.
She had been in a maths class when the blast ripped through the window.

One of the youngest victims was 13-year-old Ahmed Darwish.
When he arrived at the hospital he was shaking uncontrollably. The emergency ward was so full he was told to wait in the corridor.
Aleppo field hospital Casualties had to travel to Turkey for intensive care 
Dr Saleyha described the scene.
"Out of all the war zones I have ever been to, today has been by far the worst," she said.
"I have never seen anything like that - the fact that they were children, teenagers, same ages as my nieces and nephews."
The hospital admitted 30 patients that day.

Most had more than 50% burns - which meant their chances of survival were less than half.
The injured needed intensive care therapy but none was available in Aleppo's field hospital.
By dusk the chaos began to subside as patients were rushed across the border to Turkey for treatment. Some died on the way.

"I thought it was never going to end," Dr Rola said. "We lost a gentlemen on transfer to Bab-al-Hawa, he had extensive third degree burns.

"We tried to stabilise him and refer him as soon as possible but we weren't able to rescue him. I've never seen a burn that bad.
"I think his face is going to stay with me for quite a long time."
School in Syria after bomb attack Children were in the school's playground when the bomb landed
Two days after the attack we went to the school.
It had been one of the few to remain open in this part of northern Syria. But when we visited the classrooms were empty.

Ahmed suffered 40 per cent burns in Syria bomb attack
I'm in a lot of pain. I had a fever all last night, I'm in pain on my neck and my shoulder. Why bomb us while we are at school? Why?” 
Ahmed, 13 Victim of the attack
The smell at the scene and the debris suggest it was an incendiary bomb. It is not a chemical weapon but is classed as a conventional one. 

More than 100 countries have banned their use against civilians but Syria has not signed the treaty.
The air at the scene was still thick with the smell of whatever was dropped that day; it is hard to imagine or to describe the horrors of what the pilot did.

The headmaster said he felt helpless. He was too afraid to give his name.
"The worst thing in life is for someone to die before our eyes.
"People burning in front of you. People dying. People running. But where will they run to?
"They're not safe anywhere. This is the fate of the Syrian people."

Ten children died in the attack and many more have been left struggling to survive terrible burns.
'Please let it be over'
We visited Ahmed, in a Turkish hospital, a few weeks after the incident. Described as a hard working boy with a smiley face, he now has 40% burns to his body.

"I'm in a lot of pain," he said. "I had a fever all last night. I'm in pain on my neck and my shoulder.
"Why bomb us while we are at school. Why?"
Syria victim after hospital attack Siham had been in a maths class when the attack happened
When we last saw Siham, in the Aleppo hospital, she was screaming in pain. She is now in a ward alongside Ahmed, in Turkey. She told us the day we visited that her body still feels like it is burning.
She was in her final year of school. Described as one of the smartest in her class she is now suffering with 70% burns.

"Please let it be over now", she said. "We need to find a way out. We've had all we can take."
As the controversy over chemical weapons dies down, the world's attention will once again move on from Syria.

But for those whose lives are being torn apart by war, the suffering continues.

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Executing Terror

"Just before the cookery event, I was with about 35 kids including two of my own. Then a grenade went off and then the shots started coming in. One hit the kid beside me. I tried to stop the bleeding, but I didn't know what I was doing... I couldn't save him. They threw quite a few grenades at us. Eventually a gentleman came running towards us with a handgun, and he told us to get up and get out. I saw someone carry my daughter away. I helped all of the kids jump over the wall."
Kamal Kaur

"They came from the basement of the mall and started firing in all directions. Within minutes the floor was littered with bodies. Whoever survived was running helter-skelter in search of cover; it was pure chaos."
Shashikant Sanghani
NBC News

Precisely noon on Saturday, when the Westgate mall in Nairobi was certain to be at its most popularly crowded is when the three-pronged invasion of armed terrorists from al-Shabab made their explosive entrance. Shoppers crowded into the mall's 80 stores; perfect timing. Three assaults on three different levels to cut off escape and push the crowds into a chaotic mass of desperate-to-escape people.

One group in black with turbans, armed with assault weapons at the main entrance. The second group entering the second floor through the rooftop parking lot. The third group down a ramp to the basement. The questioning of the panicked people; Muslims over there, all others remain where you are; reminiscent of the selection process at Nazi concentration camps; Muslims to be spared, non-Muslims slaughtered.

Security forces and the police response was agonizingly slow, but the rescue of people commenced as gunfire and explosions continued. The Kenyan forces, despite the words of confidence and having everything under control, were outmatched, outgunned. They had pistols and tear gas. The intruders had assault rifles guaranteed greater accuracy and penetration. Pistols in the hands of police, useless against the bulletproof vests worn by the jihadists.

A woman was reported to have been giving orders which the others, armed men, obeyed. A shop had been rented by the jihadists for storage of belt-fed heavy machine guns, used against Kenyan troops in the open-aisle supermarket. At the back of every store service entrances where any among the attackers who meant to escape, could.

The initial attack against civilian shoppers by AK-47s and grenades replaced by machine guns used against the military.

Saturday's attack turns into Sunday's hostages and a holding situation along with a search for people remaining in hiding, to be led to safety. Command and control were less than optimum; photos of mall patrons not being cautionary-vetted and processed until latter attack stages. Security perimeter finally established but some of the attackers thought to have left, leaving behind others meant to stay on.

On Tuesday, Kenyan government claims a fire set by the terrorists was responsible for the parking roof collapse. Eventually admitting to an incredulous public that Kenyan soldiers caused the parking garage collapse, firing rocket-propelled grenades into the structure. Firing RPGs into sustaining columns not thought to represent the best of all possible defence-and-secure methods.

This photo released by the Kenya Presidency shows the collapsed upper car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.
AP Photo/Kenya Presidency    This photo released by the Kenya Presidency shows the collapsed upper car park of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.

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Sweet Reason

"While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the [uranium conversion] facility in Isfahan ... In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan".
Hassan Rowhani, President, Islamic Republic of Iran
Rohani (Photo by Reuters), and Obama (Photo by AFP).
Rohani (Photo by Reuters), and Obama (Photo by AFP).

But that, of course was then, when Mr. Rowhani was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and that speech to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council took place in 2004. Nine years ago, and not an awful lot has changed but the facade. That seems to be enough for a whole lot of people who subscribe to the process of believing whatever is told them as long as they want to believe it.

To the huge delight of the Iranian authorities it is true after all that the West is gullibly suggestive. If the West is so given to being persuaded, who are the Iranians, after all, to disappoint them? There is no shame, as far as they are concerned, in gulling and lulling. Particularly when it is engaged upon in the interests of the greater good.

That greater good, needless to say, is to advance the agenda of Iran's nuclear program. The First Lady of the United States shrank back from the possibility of shaking the hand, or horrors! air-kissing former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlosconi, for he is a notorious womanizer. Shaking the hand of Iran's new 'moderate president, however, is another thing altogether.

And he would have, graciously and happily, had Hassan Rowhani not reacted on the United Nations occasion just as Michelle Obama had when she met Berlosconi. A man whose loyal service to the Islamic Republic as a close aide to Ayatollahs Khomeni and Khamenei over the past 35 years is indisputable, and somewhat disgraceful.

But, he is not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with his crocodile smile and his declarations of the  true intentions of the Republic of Iran, whereas his successor's statements are merely prevaricatingly mendacious. Iran will never, ever, consider abandoning its program of nuclear production. Strictly, to be sure, for peaceful means; to generate energy, and produce medical isotopes.

The plentiful oil produced by Iran is, it would appear, useless as an energy-resource.

Iran does not refine its own oil, it exports its product for refinement elsewhere. It prefers to spend its capital on the hugely expensive task of building nuclear installations and uranium enrichment rather than building refinery plants. Peculiar beyond belief, unless one turns to the thought, unbelievable though it seems, from a country whose religion dedicates it to peace and humanity, that it means to produce nuclear weapons.

To, you know, kind of complement its research on ballistic rockets, attempting to improve, and succeeding admirably, in producing ever longer-range missiles which, equipped with nuclear warheads would prove devastatingly harmful to the continuation of that peace and the sweet human relations the Republic of Iran speaks so movingly of.

While Iran keeps the centrifuges spinning, it keeps telling the international community of its peaceful intentions. And that international community when it hears those words tripping off the lips of a 'moderate', beneficently-glowing face, leaps to believe what reality denies.

American President Barack Obama on the one hand, speaks of the deplorable activities of Iran in sponsoring terrorism, creating havoc in the world, instructing its non-state militia, Hezbollah to bomb and kill on its behalf. And on the other extends the other hand in friendship to a regime that has once, and now twice spurned that hand.

But, there it is, uranium enrichment for peaceful means is an inalienable right for the Islamic Republic of Iran whose near success in reaching its goal has its neighbours on tenterhooks of existential anxiety - all its neighbours save one.

And that one is headed by a murderous tyrant whose atrocities committed against his people Iran is pleased to support, as a peace-loving, human-rights-supporting regime.

Along with its very good friend, Russia. Which has prevailed so wonderfully in bringing America's previously adversarial position around to sweet reason.

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Breaking The Silence

"Our concern was, once you've gone through the Holocaust, you're going to be mostly devastated, and you're not going to really absorb anything from the other galleries, so the learning experience from that other gallery is diminished, if not lost."
George Shirinian, executive director, The Zoryan Institute

The construction site is bordered by trees. Several concrete structures are appearing in the middle of the construction site. In the foreground there is a street and in the background we see the cable structure of the Provencher bridge as well as office buildings in Saint-Boniface, a Winnipeg suburb.

"To say that we're not going to shine a light in dark corners on some of Canada's history, we absolutely will. We must, to be relevant. But there's always a balance. People are passionate about who they are, people are passionate about their culture, and we respect that. Frankly, this issue about controversy, we embrace it. Why do we embrace it? Because it comes with the nature of what human rights is all about."
Stuart Murray, Canadian Museum of Human Rights CEO
Originally conceived as a memorial to the Holocaust, when six million Jews perished during World War II as Nazi Germany sought to shed the world of the presence of Jews, devoting time, resources, funding and planning to the deliberate, finely orchestrated atrocity of extinguishing the lives of innocent men, women and children in the deadly ferocity of state anti-Semitism, the museum's intentions have widened.

Media magnate Israel Asper used his family foundation to contribute the original $22-million to the project, to build in Canada a memorial that other countries of the world have long since committed to, and a public appeal to Canadians to donate to the memorial went out, along with drawing in the federal government to name the enterprise a federally-approved one, as a national museum.

The original intention to focus on one area of human genocide was altered with the initiation of a wider project to highlight and give thoughtful memorial to all large-scale human atrocities genocidal in their intent. Breaking the Silence includes five genocides that have official recognition by the Parliament of Canada; the Holocaust, the Holdomor, the Armenian and Rwandan genocides and the Bosnian Srebrenica genocide.

Almost from the word go, loud criticism has emanated from within the Ukrainian-Canadian community fearing that the emphasis on the Holocaust would diminish the horror of the famine inflicted by Joseph Stalin on pre-WWII Ukraines when millions died of starvation, among them Ukrainian Jews.

"Our position was and remains that no community's suffering should be elevated above all others in a national museum that is funded by the taxpayer", stated Lubomyr Luciuk, Ukrainian-Canadian Civil Liberties Association member. Legislation was passed by Parliament in 2008 designating the Canadian Museum of Human Rights a national museum, with a commitment to paying its operating costs estimated at $21-million annually.

The Zoryan Institute, a think tank focused on Armenia, feels insufficient attention will be paid within the museum to the Turkish-inflicted Holocaust suffered by Armenians. A Palestinian-Canadian living in Winnipeg insists that the museum should also feature the suffering of Palestinians focusing on their dispossession with the creation of the State of Israel; a strange comparison of unequal perceptions.

And finally, Chief Murray Clearsky of Manitoba's Southern Chiefs Organization feels that the term "genocide" is not being used to describe the history of Canada's aboriginal peoples with the settlement of white Europeans who displaced First Nations from their status as the first inhabitants of the country, inflicted injustice and suffering on them in the process.

"As a proclaimed 'human rights leader', it is impossible for the state to admit to a genocidal foundation", wrote Chief Clearsky. "This is a genocide whose name dare not be spoken in the museum." Arthur Schafer of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, a museum supporter, acknowledged that the museum required independence from possible government interference.

"Governments sometimes want everything to be whitewashed. There will be controversy. There is a risk of inappropriate influence. All of us have to be vigilant."  What is clear is that the best of intentions for the best of all possible reasons will always have its passionate critics in a pluralist society.

An aerial picture of downtown Winnipeg with a computer generated image of the new Museum fully built. A river winds its way through the picture.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada at the forks of the historic Red and Assiniboine Rivers.

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Russia, Iran, Damascus may crank up border tensions to weaken Netanyahu’s hand in America

DEBKAfile Special Report September 29, 2013, 9:08 AM (IDT)
A chemical weapons store
A chemical weapons store
Western military sources predict an upsurge of tension this week along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon. Moscow, Tehran and Damascus may be planning to embarrass Binyamin Netanyahu when he sits down with President Barack Obama at the White house Monday, Sept. 30, and addresses the UN General Assembly the next day, Oct. 1. 
They see an opportunity to push Israel further out in the cold after the Obama administration’s brush-off in his rush to pursue relations with Tehran. Israel is seen as hitting a weak streak as a result of Washington’s cold shoulder and its own lack of military impetus as Netanyahu arrives in America to present Israel’s case to the US President and the international community.

Those sources therefore predict that Russian, Iranian and Syrian strategists may be planning to goad Israel into an ill-judged and badly-timed military response at this moment. They can then fit the Netanyahu government into the frame of the neighborhood warmonger and disrupter of the hopeful US-Russian partnership for solving the Iranian and Syrian chemical weapons issues by diplomacy.
All that needs to be done is to place a shipment of advanced or chemical weapons on the road from Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon to draw forth an Israeli air strike and start a blaze in a highly explosive sector.

The world would then turn round and say that Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani was correct when he defamed Israel in New York last week as the sole cause of Middle East wars in the last 40 years – without encountering a single dissenting voice in America – and the only nation in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

debkafile’s sources report that, although President Obama stated last Friday, Sept. 27,  that he informed  America’s allies, including Israel, of his landmark phone call to Rouhani, the truth is that he has kept Jerusalem in the dark on the contacts he initiated on the Iranian and Syrian issues, although Israel is most vitally affected.

The US-Russian deal for the dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal was sprung on Jerusalem from Geneva on Sept. 14 without warning, as were the Washington-Tehran exchanges and understandings on Iran’s nuclear program.

Saturday, Sept. 28, US Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated their Geneva duo performance by announcing that the UN Security Council had unanimously adopted Resolution 2118 requiring the elimination of Syria’s chemical stockpile.

All the 15 Council members present appreciated that the motion was toothless after the US and Russia had agreed to omit penalties for non-compliance.

The text said: “No party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer chemical weapons.” This wording strongly recalls Security Council Resolution 1701 which was enacted seven years ago and banned any transfer of weapons to Hizballah as the aggressor in the Second Lebanese war against Israel.

This ban was never upheld. In fact, the flow of Iranian and Syrian arms shipments to Hizballah increased from that day on, providing the Shiite terrorist organization with one of the most powerful advanced rocket arsenals in the Arab world.

Even before its enactment, Resolution 2112 was already heading for its first prevarications Friday with two separate steps by Washington and Moscow:

1.  Two weeks after Kerry’s thunderous rhetoric on the size and threat to the region of the Syrian chemical stockpile, considered the third largest in the world, US officials including the State Department told the media that since most of the stocks are “unweaponized” and exist in liquid precursors, the entire arsenal could be neutralized in a shorter period than thought, about nine months.

debkafile’s sources point out that this factoid has been known for months. It doesn’t address the real difficulties of locating the stocks Bashar Assad has hidden or transferred, or the difficulty of inspectors reaching them in areas under combat. At present, UN experts are not even free to move around Damascus without coming under fire.

2.  Lavrov reiterated Saturday that the new resolution absolutely rules out the use of force or any application of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Any possible use of force n the future under Chapter 7 would require a new resolution, he said.

Moscow has offered to provide troops to “guard workers and facilities.” The message is that if any foreign troops are to be allowed in Syria, they can only be Russian.

As for the “transfer of chemical weapons,” which is barred under the new resolution, suspicions by Western intelligence that Syrian plans to sneak part of its arsenal to Hizballah in Lebanon, or has done so already, apparently reached Beirut. Friday, President Michel Suleiman hastened to declare: “Syria’s chemical weapons have not been smuggled to Lebanon and there is no evidence of their presence in the country.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Syria Rejects Possibility that Assad will Step Down

President Bashar Al-Assad's future is "not up for discussion," Syrian Foreign Minister declares.

By Elad Benari -- Arutz Sheva 7
First Publish: 9/29/2013, 5:31 AM

President Bashar al-Assad
President Bashar al-Assad
AFP photo
Syria is “comfortable” with a UN Security Council resolution on destroying its chemical weapons and will not discuss the future of President Bashar Al-Assad, the country’s foreign minister said Saturday, according to AFP.

The foreign minister, Walid Muallem, told reporters the resolution voted by the 15-nation council late Friday meant the opposition could be the target of UN sanctions.

“I am comfortable with the resolution,” Muallem was quoted as having said at the UN headquarters where he will give Syria’s address to the General Assembly on Monday.
“It calls for Chapter VII against the terrorists,” the foreign minister added.

Assad’s government habitually calls the opposition groups battling to overthrow him “terrorists.”
The UN resolution allows the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to start a mission this week to collect and destroy Syria’s arms.

It does not allow for immediate sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in Syria, but there could be a new vote on measures if the disarmament accord is violated.

The UN says chemical weapons were used in an August 21 attack in Damascus that left hundreds dead. The United States and other western nations blame government forces for the killings. Assad’s government says opposition rebels were behind the sarin gas attack.

Muallem said he was “worried” that opposition groups have chemical weapons.
On Wednesday, UN chemical weapons inspectors returned to Syria to continue investigating allegations of chemical weapons use in the country’s two-and-a-half-year conflict.

At the time of the August 21 attack, the inspectors had been in Damascus preparing to investigate three earlier cases of suspected chemical weapons use, including one in March in the northern town of Khan al-Assal.

American and Russia experts have voiced optimism over the Russian-initiated plan to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons program in order to fend off the prospect of western military intervention
The UN is also hoping to organize a Syria peace conference in mid-November to negotiate a transitional government. But Muallem signaled that there could be no talk of Assad’s departure, as the opposition and Western nations have demanded.

“There can be no discussion of the future of President Assad. It is in the constitution,” Muallem declared, according to AFP.

U.S. President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly again this week that Assad would have to quit.

Muallem said Assad was determined to see out his term and would stand for re-election. Assad has said there will be an election in 2014.

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India PM Singh in 'terror' warning to Pakistan ahead of talks

BBC News online -- 29 September 2013
Indian PM Manmohan Singh speaks at the UN General Assembly. Photo: 28 September 2013 Manmohan Singh stressed that Kashmir was "an integral part of India"

Indian PM Manmohan Singh has said Pakistan must stop being "the epicentre of terrorism", ahead of talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Singh also stressed that he shared Mr Sharif's hopes for better relations between the two Asian rivals.

Ahead of their meeting in New York, Mr Sharif called for a "new beginning" with Delhi.
The bilateral ties have been strained over continuing deadly clashes in the disputed region of Kashmir.

On Thursday, at least 10 people were killed when militants stormed a police station and an army camp in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Delhi has also blamed Pakistan-based militants for the deadly attacks in Mumbai in 2008, urging Islamabad to punish the perpetrators.

Indian army soldiers gather behind a wall during an attack by militants on an army camp at Mesar, Kashmir. Photo: 26 September 2013 Indian soldiers said they shot dead three gunmen in this week's attack
"For progress to be made, it is imperative that the territory of Pakistan and the areas under its control are not utilised for aiding or abetting terrorism," Mr Singh said in a speech at the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

"It is equally important that the terrorist machinery that draws its sustenance from Pakistan be shut down."

Mr Singh also said he reciprocated Mr Sharif's hopes for better relations, but stressed that Delhi viewed Kashmir as "an integral part of India".

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by the Line of Control.
India in the past has expressed concern over Mr Sharif's perceived ties to radical Islamic groups operating in Pakistan, correspondents say.

In his speech at the UN, Mr Sharif said he was looking for a "purposeful dialogue" with Mr Singh during their Sunday's meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

"Our two countries have wasted massive resources in an arms race. We could have used those resources for the economic well-being of our people," he said.

Despite tense relations between the two countries, they may be an opening, the BBC's Nick Bryant in New York reports.

Mr Singh, 81, is not expected to contest next year's elections, and this could be his last chance to revive the stalled peace process, our correspondent says.

Mr Sharif swept to power in May with pledges to improve ties with India.

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Manic Euphoria

"While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.
"I do believe there is a basis for a resolution."
American President Barack Obama

"I want it to be the case that this trip will be a first step, and a beginning for better and constructive relations with countries of the world as well as a first step for a better relationship between the two great nations of Iran and the United States of America."
Islamic Republic of Iran President, Hassan Rouhani
There were constraints. It could not be otherwise, after all. Hostility has raged between the country of Iran since the Iranian Revolution took the country into theocratic totalitarian status, and the democracy of the United States of America which suffered the outrage of a violent attack against its diplomatic mission in Tehran. A level of hostility emanating from the Republic of Iran that has never been mitigated, toward the country it names the "Great Satan".

A country which is demonized within Iran, with shouts of the faithful resounding from time to time on cue from the government of "Death To America!" Iran's intransigence on its perceived threat to peace and the societies that surround it with its determination to develop nuclear weapons, despite its claims to no such aspirations, has awarded it with international sanctions against its economic interests.

Those sanctions and the assault on its reputation as a terrorist-sponsoring country that specializes in the oppression of its own people and its intentions toward domination of the region through the coercion of fear and violence, appear to have persuaded the leading Ayatollahs that it might be in their best interests to employ a change in tack.

Not to alter their ambitions or their governance, but to use a more sophisticated, genial and cosmopolitan attitude toward the outside world. A well-considered gambit.

And it has gambled wisely. For, without altering one iota of their devastatingly vile human-rights agenda, or committing to responding positively to the demands of the United Nations and the IAEA that it open its nuclear technology environment to international scrutiny, it has scored a huge success in charming the haplessly trusting West by coyly smiling rather than employing its usual harsh scowl.

It doesn't, after all, take much to disarm those whose own agenda is to be collegial, congenial and co-operative; three baseline Cs that have always offended the Islamic Republic of Iran.

And so, finally, though an initial handshake of courtesy and civility was not on the books at the United Nations, and nor was a meeting between the two presidents of the United States and Iran, a brief telephone conversation was, as Mr. Rouhani left the land of evil to return to the land of piety. A brief conversation of no moment aside from a cursory facade of courteous pretense.

Talks will continue, stated President Obama. If the talks are of the substance and ilk that he exchanged in that conversation they are less than worthless. If the verbal promissory notes that were proffered by Iran to the world are as trustworthy as its balefully malicious activities of violence and horror have been predictable in the so-recent past, little will be produced of any value to the world in the sham that is detente presented for world consumption, latterly.

The reality is that we live in an uncertain world governed in part by those would do good and those who have no such intention, squaring off against one another. The other is that the former tend to be trusting while the latter know better. And the cunning manipulation of the former by the latter appears to take the world stage with perfect aplomb.

In whose mirror image the United Nations presents itself.

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The Honourable UN Member Republic of Iran

"[Canada is committed to] sustained international attention and pressure that will foster change [in Iran]. We therefore encourage you to support the Iran human rights resolution when this item is considered by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in November."
"Such a dialogue would enable us to meet, discuss and collaborate on issues of mutual concern, and to advance our shared interests in support of stability and prosperity."
[Canada believes it is "in the global interest for the GCC to take on an increasing role in both regional security matters as well as global economic ones."
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird

Canada's John Baird has been meeting with his Persian Gulf counterparts with a view to establishing more usefully close relations there, proposing a strategic dialogue between Canada and the Gulf Co-operation Council. The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These are all Arab states, and are majority-Sunni Islam populated and Sunni-ruled.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not Arab, but Aryan, Persian. And it is largely Shiite-dominated and certainly Shia ruled as a theocratic totalitarian state. Iran envisions itself with a return to a dominant Islamist social-political role in the Middle East. And, as a Middle East power it knows how military might is vital to achieving such an end. It is well aware also that as a Shiite-led nation it represents a minority whose government is loathed by its neighbours.

There is rich social-political pasturage for Canada -- which deplores the abysmal human rights record of Iran, and its status as a terrorist-supporting country whose citizens are oppressed by their government -- to graze within for nourishment of its plan to continue outlawing the Republic and shaming it for its disgraceful record, within the United Nations.

Human rights within Iran are universally recognized as being basely violated under the administration of the Iranian Revolutionary government and its viciously militant Revolutionary Guard Corps. Violations of human rights within the country are rampant, including the oppression of religious sects, crackdowns on opposition parties, protesters and the media. The country is infamous for its use of torture, arbitrary detention and execution, along with the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities.

The Government of Canada has committed itself to the presentation of an annual resolution condemning Iran's human rights record before the United Nations. A putative and hugely celebrated breakthrough in relations from hostile to humbly accepting within the international community primarily of the West has not caused Canada to hesitate in its intentions.

There may be a thaw in relations between the United States and Iran, but those between Canada and Iran remain frozen, for nothing has changed to make it otherwise. The Government of Canada seeks real proof that Iran is prepared to embark on meaningful change in its programs, attitudes, values and relations both internally and externally. Fundamental to that would be proof that it is reconsidering its intention to continue its nuclear program, and opening it completely to external scrutiny.

The sham of the new president of Iran presenting himself and his country as having turned away completely from the confrontational style of his predecessor appears to have charmed many within the international community, but Canada continues to recognize the Iran it knows. And it knows that Iran is a past master at buying time, throwing suspicion off its intentions and managing through a process of sly promises it has no intention of keeping, to triumph over its adversaries.

Iran and Syria were the first countries that the Government of Canada listed as sponsors of terrorism since the enactment of Canada's Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act became legal in March 2012. Nothing between then and now has occurred to alter that status; if anything, the actions of the two countries have given solid proof that they are rightly named as terrorism sponsors and countries directly engaged in terror.

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